The German frigate “Bayern” set sail for the Pacific this week. On its six-month voyage, the vessel is set to participate in exercises with Australia, Japan, Singapore and United States. The ship is also expected to support NATO and EU counter-terrorism and anti-piracy operations being conducted in the Mediterranean and around the Horn of Africa as well as to help in the enforcement of UN sanction on the DPRK.
The mission also carries a diplomatic weight by emphasizing German engagement in the Pacific and through a series of planned port visits which include stops in Australia, Japan and South Korea. Germany has also extended the offer of a port visit to Shanghai with the expressed purposed of maintaining dialogue but China’s foreign ministry has replied that the ship will not be allowed to dock in Shanghai unless the vessel’s intentions in the South China Sea are clarified.
The planned deployment had been revealed in November of last year and closely followed the release of a new German policy document titled ‘Policy guidelines for the Indo-Pacific‘. Germany has largely been in step with other Western and regional democracies by referencing upholding values, international law and a rules-based international order in it’s the Indo-Pacific within its policy document and when speaking of the Bayern’s journey. According to German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer:
“The message [of the voyage] is clear: we are standing up for our values and interests together with our partners and allies. […] For our partners in the Indo-Pacific, it is a reality that sea routes are no longer open and secure, and that claims to territory are being applied by the law of might is right.”
The Bayern is one of Germany’s four Brandenburg-class frigates whose primary function is anti-submarine warfare. Commissioned in 1996, the ship is 139 meters long and crewed by over 230 sailors.